This post originally appeared on The Good Mother Project.
I am a truth teller. Secrets generally aren’t my thing. But when I got pregnant, suddenly I was keeping a lot of them.
Pregnancy was hard on me. No, I didn’t have debilitating nausea most of the time or require bed rest like some endure. I did have sharp rib pain and carpal tunnel. But the physical discomforts of pregnancy aside, the real struggle I faced was feeling like my body had been invaded and overtaken.
I was not a happy pregnant woman.
What saddened me was how difficult it was for some people to accept that. They wanted to “ooh” and “aah” over my swelling bump, but they didn’t want to hear how I felt about it. My raw honesty made them uncomfortable, eliciting upbeat responses like, “But it’ll all be worth it!” As well intended as those sentiments may have been, I felt dismissed. Silenced.
Over time I conditioned myself not to tell much of anybody how I felt about being pregnant. I learned to silence myself before anyone else could.
I turned to a therapist for help. When I shared some of the feelings I’d been struggling with, she asked me point blank, “Was this pregnancy unplanned?” I quickly retorted, “Oh no, this pregnancy was very planned!” Maybe it was a routine question, but her asking indicated that these ambivalent feelings I had were expected of women experiencing unintended pregnancies. I was some kind of anomaly.
I questioned myself: if this pregnancy was something I wanted and planned for and was fortunate enough to get, how could I feel anything but sheer joy?
Feelings are not that straightforward.
Feelings are complex—at times fleeting, at times contradictory. They cannot be resisted through sheer will power or dismissed through logical thinking. Like the wailing cries of my baby girl, feelings need to be responded to with nurture and care, not frustration or resentment. And when those acts of comforting become tiresome, I need to invite others in to help shoulder the burden.
More than eight months have passed since the birth of my daughter, and the experience of my pregnancy, even the searing rib pain, is fading into distant memory. But I am committed to remembering those feelings. They move me to a place of compassion when others risk sharing their truth, even when hearing it causes me pain, even when I want nothing more than to assuage those feelings by offering words of hope.
Motherhood is teaching me how to sit patiently in the discomfort of my daughter’s cries, and in so doing I’m learning to bring myself more fully into the hurts, the secrets, the sometimes-silent cries of our world. I may have nothing more to offer than my embrace. But I’m beginning to realize that my presence is more than enough. In fact it’s everything.